The average Labrador will excel in obedience, tracking, agility, or any activity the owner wishes to train for. They are a very versatile breed whose only wish is to please their owners. They have been used as service dogs for years helping to guide the Blind, assisting as therapy dogs, as well as being used as Search dogs for bombs, narcotics and people. A well trained pet is not born; but made thru training.
Field Labs tend to have more energy then those bred from show lines. If a Lab does not get enough daily exercise, they will find a way to use the energy up themselves. It will probably be in a destructive manner, which is why people think they are hyper dogs. A Labrador with correct temperament is not hyper. Labs do not mentally mature until they are about 3 years of age. This means you have a dog that is mentally a puppy with an active energy level you must control. You must plan to spend time daily exercising your dog. This will make for a calmer pet.
Labradors have a very thick double coat, they have a soft, downy undercoat and a harder outer coat. Labradors usually shed their coats twice a year. Called "blowing coat," it can be helped by bathing in warm water and blow-drying to remove the dead coat. House dogs do not grow as much undercoat as dogs who spend more time outside, but tend to shed slightly year round. Although they have a shorter coat it still sheds through out the house; if this is a problem, maybe you should reconsider getting a dog.
Brushing your Labrador once or twice a week with a shedding blade or slicker brush will help keep the dead coat from shedding in the house; especially when they are blowing coat. Bathing should be done about monthly; a good shampoo made for dogs should be used. A proper Labrador coat repels dirt but a good bath is still needed to keep the dog clean. Labradors should have their nails clipped regularly; a canine nail clipper works best. If unsure of how to clip their nails, your vet will be able to show you the proper way.
Labradors are great kids dogs, but as with any dog should not be left unattended with a small child. More info on kids and dogs. Most labs are active dogs and could accidentally injure a child in play. Also puppy teeth can be rather sharp, and while grabbing for a toy they could break the skin. Children also play roughly and can be cruel in their play. As a parent, it is your responsibility to teach both the child and puppy how to behave around each other.
Labradors in general do not bark except as a warning to let you know something is different. If confined outside alone all day some have been known to become excessive barkers. As watch dogs they will alert to an intruder but thats about all. Don't expect your Labrador to be a guard dog. They will also bark while playing but on the average are a pretty quiet breed.
Most Labs take to the water like a duck but if they are unsure do not force them. Usually an older dog can show a puppy how to swim. If they are still not sure about the water just let the puppy play in the shallows until they are more confident. Sometimes playing a game of retrieve will get the dog to go into the deeper water. Access to an in ground swimming pool should be supervised, as dogs can't climb ladders and will need help learning how to get out safely.
Some people have been known to incorrectly refer to yellow Labradors as "golden Labradors"; but the Golden Retriever is a separate breed.
Males tend to be more devoted and willing, females are a little more independent and if unspayed they can be "moody". Unneutered males will be distracted if a female is in heat. Both good reason to have your pets spayed or neutered. Either one will love you for you and give you years of devotion. People ask what the differences are between them and I give the example, that if you are watching TV and leave the room, your male will follow you but your female will get up and take your place on the couch. Males do have more energy than most females so more daily exercise is needed, but I have found them easier to train.
They have been the top breed registered with the AKC since 1991. With careful research you can find a breeder who has a goal when breeding, other than the mighty dollar. The average price for a properly bred puppy is about $700-$900. These puppies will be from a breeder who has all breeding stock screened for genetic problems and usually shows their dogs in conformation, field, or obedience. They have taken the time to study pedigrees and have chosen what they feel will be the best breeding, not just the Lab next door because he has "papers."
Hip-dysplasia is a problem as with most large breeds, so be sure to ask breeders if they have "cleared" their dogs either with OFA or Wind-Morgan for hip-dysplasia. Even Labs from clear parents can have hip dysplasia; this is not a guarantee. But Labs from clear parents have a better chance of not developing problems than from unknowns.
Eye problems are also present in Labs. The parents should be examined yearly by a veterinary ophthalmologist, to screen for PRA, retinal folds, and cataracts. Again this is not a guarantee your dog will not develop problems, but not all eye problems will lead to blindness.
Labradors in humid climates can be prone to "hot-spots" which are bacterial infections that the dog scratches or chews till it is bloody. Veterinary intervention is needed to stop this quickly before the dog does too much damage. Allergies can also cause skin problems in some Labs. Ear infections can be a problem with ears that hang, especially if the Lab spends a lot of time in the water.
Choosing your breeder carefully will help to eliminate most of these problems, but remember these are living creatures and the perfect dog has not been born. Most breeders are striving to breed only healthy dogs but mother nature does funny things.
Reputable breeders will want to ask you a lot of questions before allowing you to visit their kennel. These questions help them determine the proper placement for each puppy. You should ask to see the clearances for the parents; also ask to meet the parents. A lot of breeders use stud dogs owned by someone else so they may not be available to see. There may be relatives to the litter that you can meet. You can determine a lot from the adult dogs, as puppies are cute, but what you see in the adults will be closer to what your puppy will eventually grow up as.
The environment the puppy is raised in will be important. They need to have a lot of human interaction; this creates the bond that will last a life time between you and your dog. All the puppies should be outgoing and bright. They should be clean and look well cared for. Most breeders raise the puppies in the house; this allows them to be exposed to everyday noises and activity.
You need to decide what color and sex you prefer, what you are planning to do with the dog, and what kind of temperament you'd like. Once you have answers to those questions, discuss your ideas and wants with breeders. After talking to or visiting with breeders, choose one you feel comfortable with. Most breeders take the time to evaluate each puppy and help you select the puppy that is right for you. You may have to wait to get a puppy; most breeders have a waiting lists for upcoming litters. Be patient; this is a big commitment of both time and money. Labradors live to be 12-15 years old. So don't rush into choosing a puppy if you feel its not exactly what you are looking for.